The R&D department is responsible for the team’s completion of the FIA mandatory tests, and the development and reliability of all parts used on race weekends from the wheel nuts up to the chassis... basically the whole car. This means that the department spends 70% of its time testing to make sure that the parts are performing to their maximum potential.
The meticulous tests involve using both physical and computer generated track simulations. With maximum performance required at every race, it is of paramount importance that not a single part of the car or pit equipment fails. Consequently every functional part involved in racing falls under the scrutiny of R&D. The range of materials that is examined in minuscule details is quite extensive.
Tests vary from checking up to 23 metallic elements in the gearbox oil, to analysing the strength of mixed adhesives properties before fitting a suspension system or tub to the car. The department is also equipped with a scanning electrical microscope (SCM) which is able to magnify 300,000 times and is used to study the infinitesimal details of a crack. This allows examination for development and thus maximum prevention against any future defects.
The staff in our R&D department must combine the skills of an engineer, scientist, technician and chemist. The testing methods are particularly wide-ranging and complex. A member of the R&D department will take around two years to become fully trained and fully confident with all the intricacies of testing methods!
The department is home to a myriad of apparatus to carry out all the analysis; having its own design and electronics teams, and machine shop.
The bulk of the testing on the car is on the most important, or Class A parts. These parts are the essentials (brakes, steering, suspension and wings) and must perform at maximum capacity to ensure not only the quickest lap times but also (and above all!) the driver’s safety. Within Class A, there are three levels of suitability: a Class A3 part is straight from the factory.
On arrival in the department it is proof fatigued and undergoes an ultimate test to prove the tensile strength. If the part qualifies as an acceptable standard it will then progress. Class A2 is the next stage where the part is graded and given a distance and service lifespan. Typically parts last up to 30,000km.
When the part has satisfied the required benchmark after thorough physical testing and reached the standard of A1, the part can be fitted to the race car. When the car is returned from the track the parts are retested for faults. If a part is found to be at less than 5% of the quality it was sent out with, it is removed and replaced by a brand new one.
Particular emphasis has been placed on the R&D department in recent years with the new testing rules set out by the FIA which limit track testing to 15,000 km. This has brought one of its most key tools, the eight post rig, in to sharper focus. It uses hydraulics to recreate the force of any corner or surface that the car will experience.
It has the ability to be programmed to replicate every Formula One track around the world or put together a selection of the most challenging corners to give the car the most realistic test possible and to highlight the exact forces the car will undergo.
The goal of the department is to limit the amount of problems experienced to a minimum whilst finding innovative ways of improving lap times whilst adhering to FIA regulations and keeping cost at a minimum.
• The R&D department spends 70% of its time testing parts to make sure they are performing to their maximum potential.
• Tests vary from checking up to 23 metallic elements in the gearbox oil, to analysing the strength properties of mixed adhesives before being used to fit a suspension system or tub to the car
• The R&D staff must combine the skills of an engineer, scientist, technician and chemist
• The most important/sensitive parts are called and tested as “Class A” parts
• If a part is found to be of less than 5% of the quality it was sent out to the track with it is removed and replaced by a brand new one
(With thanks to Mick Wilby)